Housing and and Community Services Department

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1 Contact: Nadja Stone Tel: Housing and and Community Services Department AFFORDABLE HOUSING PANEL - 1 February 2007 Home Ownership Initiatives - Cash Incentive Scheme Report by: Assistant Director (Housing Strategy and Services) SUMMARY This report proposes the establishment of a small scheme to enable tenants to become owner occupiers in the private sector through financial assistance towards the cost of a deposit, legal and moving expenses. This will enable tenants to become owner occupiers, and at the same time, release family sized accommodation to let to those in housing need. 1. RECOMMENDATIONS 1.1 That the Affordable Housing Panel approve the establishment of a fund of up to 440,000 to make interest free long term loan for up to 16 tenants who wish to purchase in the open market in Hounslow,thereby releasing family sized accommodation to be re-let. 1.2 That the scheme for Council tenants be administered by Hounslow Homes, and the scheme for RSL tenants be administered by Bush Housing. 1.3 That precise eligibility rules are developed from the general principles set out in the report (see particularly Sections 3.2 and 3.6) and agreed with Lead member for Strategic Housing. 2. OPPORTUNITIES FOR HOME OWNERSHIP 2.1 There are tenants in Council and RSL housing, who are interested in becoming home owners, and have a sufficient income to be able to afford repayments on a mortgage. In some circumstances these tenants exercise the Right to Buy or other home ownership options. However, if they are living on an estate, or in a flat, they may often not wish to purchase the particular property that they are currently living in. Buying on the open market is the main option available to them, but they may not have been able to acquire sufficient savings to take the first step into home ownership. 2.2 There are a number of shared equity schemes available, but they are often attached to particular properties, in particular locations. What has been tried and tested in a

2 number of Boroughs, is the idea of the local authority providing financial assistance in the form of a cash grant to help these tenants pay a deposit, legal and moving costs, and thus enable them to become owner occupiers of homes the applicants choose on the open market earlier than they might otherwise have been able to. (LB Hounslow has run such schemes in the past but these ceased when the specific Government grant to support these type of schemes ended). 2.3 This type of scheme is very popular with tenants, as it enables them to choose the property that they wish to buy, and they are free to be able to buy on the open market, rather than in a particular scheme built and designed around first time buyers. 2.4 The scheme would have two main objectives :- 1. To contribute to the Hounslow Plan target of providing a range of opportunities for Hounslow residents to become owner-occupiers, resulting in an increase in home ownership in the Borough (Hounslow Plan 2.5(n)) 2. To vacate family sized Council or RSL properties which can then be let to high priority cases awaiting a home /transfer. 3. OPERATION OF THE SCHEME 3.1 A interest free long term loan of between 25,000 and 30,000 is made to a tenant who surrenders their tenancy and fully vacates the property. The payment is linked to purchasing a property on the open market. Once selected for a cash incentive loan the tenant must identify a property, and have made an offer which is accepted. A mortgage must be in place, and the loan is then paid to the solicitors immediately prior to completion to ensure that the money is used for the purpose intended. The loan will be secured as a charge against the property purchased and will be in effect an interest free loan which is paid off when the property is sold (or earlier if the household wishes). The vacated property is then let in accordance with the Council s allocation plan. 3.2 If approved, the scheme will be advertised to tenants only, initially by direct mailing to households in two bed property or larger, and in order to benefit, a tenant must have a clear rent account. In the event of the scheme being oversubscribed, tenants with the largest properties and then the longest tenancy dates will benefit first. The scheme will be prioritised for LB Hounslow tenants and only if under subscribed will it be offered to RSL tenants in the Borough (with the resulting vacancies let to Council nominees). 3.4 It is proposed that Hounslow Homes administer this scheme for Council tenants and Bush Homes for Registered Social landlord tenants. It is proposed that the level of grant is linked to the size of unit being given up. 3.5 Other local authorities have successfully run similar schemes. See below a table setting out 3 Local Authorities Cash Incentive schemes.

3 Example of Cash Incentive schemes in, Ealing, Hillingdon and Brent Bedroom Size Ealing Hillingdon 1 bedroom (tenancy of Wandsworth 15,000 Tenancy of 2 years+ 20,000 2 bedroom (tenancy of 2 bed 2 yr tenancy 3 bedroom (tenancy of tenancy of 2yr + 4 bedroom (tenancy of 30,000 25,000 20,000 25,000 30,000 30,000 29, It is proposed that the Hounslow Scheme should make the following grants available: Size released Maximum Payment 2 BR property 25,000 3 BR property 30,000 4 BR property 35,000 Applicants will only be allowed to buy properties in the Borough available on the open market (i.e it cannot be combined with shared ownership or similar schemes) and applicants/ properties to be purchased will be checked to ensure that the property is suitable for their needs in general terms (i.e not overtly overcrowded or overtly large) and that the grant is needed to fund the purchase( i.e the household cannot afford to buy the property without it) but is not on the margin of affordability (i.e the household are not taking on an unreasonably high mortgage). 3.7 The operation of the scheme will be closely monitored in terms of the level of interest and the ability of tenants to benefit from the scheme Value for money 4.1 It is difficult to assess the level of cash incentive required to make the difference between a sum sufficient to enable a council housing tenant to make the choice to move into the home ownership market, without making an excessive payment that is more than is required for the purpose. A household wanting to buy a property costing 170,000 would need a joint income of 48,000 pa in order to be able to purchase. If they received a cash incentive of 30,000 in order to buy a 3 bed property, then they would be able to afford to purchase on the lower income of around 40,000 pa ,000 as a long term interest free loan from the Council to enable a 3 bed room property to become available is value for money when compared the grant required to able to fund an RSL to build a property of the same size (which would be around 160,000) or to fund a shared ownership property (around 65,000).

4 4.3 The net cost of maintaining a household in the most expensive form of temporary accommodation is around 6,000 pa; this does not include the cost of management of the temporary accommodation; this is simply the cost of rent less the available benefit. Being able to provide accommodation permanently for such a household would in effect be repaid within 5 years. 5.0 Delivery of the schemes 5.1 It is suggested that for RSL tenants a partner agreement is negotiated with Bush Homes to deliver these schemes. This organisation has successfully completed these types of schemes in Hounslow over a period of 15 years, and is an experienced deliverer as well as being the only RSL that has a submitted a proposal that included indicative figures. This agreement could form the basis for negotiation with further providers for future options that the Affordable Housing Fund Sub-group might want to consider. 5.2 The points in Bush Homes favour are summarised below: They have administered and delivered Shared Ownership schemes and Shared Ownership resales, repayment loans for Homebuy DIYSO within the Borough, and cash incentives in other Local Authorities. Have previously used their RCGF monies to fund new-build Shared Ownership schemes in Hounslow. Are regularly audited by The Housing Corporation on all the above schemes and have a good track record both in delivery and audit reviews. Have all the systems and experienced staff in place and could start the delivery of the above programme early in the New Year. Are based in Hounslow and have an excellent knowledge of the Borough property market and the Council systems. They have an established working relationship with the Borough housing section. Are holders of a consumer credit license that allows them to interview tenants and check their financial status including bank statements, salary slips and savings accounts and give best advice as to which scheme is most suitable. 6. CONCLUSION 6.1 The Council s housing objectives includes the aim of increasing home ownership throughout the Borough, and to meet the needs of local families. The proposed Cash Incentive scheme may play a small part in fulfilling two of these objectives. It enables tenants who would otherwise not be able afford to do so, to become owner occupiers; and it also releases units of social housing for the 9,000 households in housing need in the Borough. 6.2 This scheme would be funded from the capital receipts part of the Affordable Housing Fund.

5 7. COMMENTS FROM HEAD OF HOUSING FINANCE 7.1 It is noted that the Cash Incentive Scheme currently proposed is a pilot and that the funding available is initially limited to 440k. The proposed mechanism for funding this initiative is now through interest free loans to tenants in predominately larger properties within the HRA and if demand from our tenants is not sufficient to extend the scheme to RSL tenants living in the borough. This will enable tenants to achieve home ownership in the private sector within Hounslow, and also free up much needed larger properties, which will in turn assist the provision of better quality housing for either transfer or homeless households in housing need. 7.2 It is also noted that there will be clear controls and checks to ensure that prospective applicants can afford their mortgages, that the properties they are purchasing are suitable for their needs and household size; and importantly that they would not be able to purchase without the aid of the grant. 7.3 Any involvement in the administration of this scheme by an RSL should be subject to a financial assessment and any loans made to RSL applicants should be linked to nomination rights for the Council. By making the assistance through interest free loans the money advanced will in the future at some stage come back to the Council and can then be recycled into funding further housing initiatives. 8. COMMENTS FROM THE DIRECTOR OF LEGAL SERVICES 8.1 The Director of Legal Services has read the report and has no comments to make.

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